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Entries in General (20)


Hello 2004!

Well, I'm back. It's been a wonderful break for myself and my family here, I enjoyed having time with family and time to get some good sleep and quality time in over the past few weeks and more importantly, time to reflect on 2003 and think about 2004.

I see that Michael Ashby has posted three new year resolutions on his weblog and I may do so as well. I'm still mulling over what they ought to be, but I like his approach.

It was good to step away from the computer and my Palm for much of that time as well -- in fact from Wednesday evening (New Years Eve) through Sunday afternoon, I often carried my Tungsten E along but used it very sparingly. I only stopped in the basement office to check email here and there during that time, choosing to spend time with my family and doing non-techy things for the weekend instead. I spend all year using my Mac and Palm, so it made sense to have a nice long break, allowing techy stuff to regain freshness.

Christmas was a good time, meeting with family and friends for food and gift giving. Unfortunately our family (Gail, Nathan and I) all came down with colds shortly before the holidays began and battled them for a few weeks. That was the only bummer and that's not bad, though I'm glad we're all better now.

Gift highlights for this year were Lord of the Rings Two Towers extended edition DVD (the two Appendices discs are awesome viewing), Get Shorty DVD, clothes, two Caribou Coffee gift cards and a lighted hex-head screwdriver. ;-)

During the break I saw the final episode of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Return of the King. I enjoyed this film immensely, finding myself yelling out loud with joy at several points during the film. As you may recall, our church youth group had a marathon of LOTR, watching parts 1 and 2 then seeing Return of the King together at the local Ultra Screen. This was alot of fun to do, though we didn't finish both extended editions of films 1 and 2 until about 2am! :-)

However, there was a big payoff in doing the marathon. Seeing all three in a row (and the extended editions) really help tie things together and help bring out things to ponder. I'm amazed that no matter how many times I read or see or hear Lord of the Rings story, I'm always presented with new insights from the story -- very much like my experience reading Scripture. Cool stuff.

Our family also rented a few films (with a Hollywood Video $0.99 each coupon): Seabiscuit, which was nicely done for its historical look but not as surprising an ending as I expected. Pirates of the Caribbean, a very fun film with Johnny Depp as the Keith Richards-styled pirate and great special effects. Lastly, we rented Finding Nemo, which Gail and I loved in the theaters and was good on DVD, though the DVDs extra features were a little disappointing.

An interesting side-effect of watching Seabiscuit was a sudden interest in the Depression era, which led me to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath which I started just after Christmas. I've been really enjoying Grapes of Wrath and Steinbeck's writing styles; his ability to build tension with his description and narrative is very enjoyable. I'm several chapters into the book and I am glad to report it has passed my 100 page test. As I go through or complete the book, I may mention tidbits here and there. Funny how required reading in school seems like a bear, but when you come to these same books on your own they can have such a different feeling about them.

And as an NFL and Green Bay Packer fan, these past few weeks have been a wild ride to say the least! If you're not a fan or just haven't been in the loop, the Packers have been on a winning streak the past 5 weeks. Brett Favre, the quarterback of the Packers lost his dad several weeks ago prior to a Monday Night Football game, but elected to play -- and had an incredible first half of 4 touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders.

But even better, the final week of the season Green Bay was launched into the NFL playoffs with an improbable 18-17 Arizona Cardinals win over the Minnesota Vikings in the final seconds of the game. The Vikings loss gave Green Bay the division title and a spot as a wildcard team, hosting a game at home (Lambeau Field).

That game, played this past Sunday with the Seattle Seahawks, was and incredible and emotional game as well. The Seahawks and Packers battled back and forth into overtime (sudden death) and neither could score. I was worried that the Pack would lose the game but didn't give up hope, as this team seems to find ways to win. Gail and I sat on the floor in front of our TV watching to see what happened.

Well, the end came on a second Seattle possession. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (who started as a Packer years ago) threw a pass which was intercepted by the Green Bay defensive back Al Harris and run back for a winning touchdown to a howling Lambeau field crowd. I know we were screaming with joy along with Packer fans all over Wisconsin, the nation and the world! Wow, what a great ending. Wooohooo! :-)

I'm happy now as a Packer fan that Green Bay has made it as far as they have. If they lose the next divisional game, I'll still be very pleased with their run. They're a huge underdog from here to a potential Superbowl berth, playing Philadelphia Eagles at Philly, who they certainly have the advantage of playing at home and statistically being favored to win.

However, Philly has lost some critical games at home, including last year against the eventual Super Bowl winner Tampa Bay. Further, Green Bay is on a roll right now. So, who knows what might happen (which makes this alot of fun!). In any case, this season has at times been a hard one as a Packer fan, but the end of the season has been great fun.

As for the weblog, I've contacted Julie and Judie over at the Gadgeteer and they've agreed to do an interview. Questions are now off to them, so once they come back I'll post them here for your reading pleasure.

Also, I'm intending to do some rebuilding here on the weblog, re-building it using DIVs and CSS positioning instead of tables as an experimental project. I was inspired by a book sample I'd read last week and want to get serious about CSS table-less layouts. My own weblog seemed like one good way to experiment with these techniques.

Alright, that's enough rambling for today. I do hope your own holidays were enjoyable and that you feel refreshed and ready to take on 2004.

Happy New Year!! :-)


Reflection Journal Update

Just had a few moments today to post, so I thought I'd offer an update on my reflection journal mentioned last week. So far, so good. In fact, I have to say I've really been looking forward to journaling each evening before bed. Seems a nice way to wrap up the day, even if it's a few lines or a single page of the journal.

Kyle asked a good question in the comments of my initial post: why I hadn't gone to something like DayNotez for my reflection journal? Well, while I think DayNotez is a very nice journalling app for the Palm, I decided that this reflection journal ought to be an analog one. I love small journal books, good fountain ink pens and the feeling of writing with them, so it was a natural decision for me.

I'd begun this particular small reflection journal back in 1997, which had been used only when the need to reflect and then write would hit me. Most of the book was still empty, so it also made sense to continue filling it with my daily reflections. I have many pages to fill yet (maybe 40) but now that I've gone daily, those might be filled quickly.

As for how reflection has helped me deal with all the info I consume -- I think it has. I have been thinking about many things I had not before and in ways I hadn't before, which leads me to suspect there is a positive correlation between reflection journaling and deeper thought. However, I do think that a longer term review of my reflection journaling in say 6 months might provide more evidence. We'll see.


Reflecting and Digesting in an Info-Overloaded World

As I'm sure you're aware, we're living in a time when information can become overwhelming, if you choose to let it. There are so many ways to fill our minds with data: websites, weblogs, email, RSS feeds, SMS, IM, phone calls, radio, TV, newspapers. magazines, books, and the list goes on and on.

While our info-overloaded society is a great for learning and information, it can become the very thing stopping us from reflecting on and digesting the information it offers.

Today, while briefly pondering life at the café, I came to realize that I don't set aside enough time for reflecting and digesting all of the information I consume. I'm doing a good job of getting input; but I see now that there just isn't a proper balance of digestion time available to me to deal with all that input.

Funnily enough, it was the very shortness of the time I had available for pondering, that clearly reinforced my need for dedicated reflection time. I'm reading or processing information during the day, but am I taking time to really digest it properly? Of course some bits of information need no digestion but many do, and I find myself so interested in what's new that I'm not stopping to evaluate what I've just read.

Reflection time is a luxury in fast paced technologically driven world and it means that I must step off the roller-coaster of life now and then to indulge in that luxury. But while it is a luxury, it is also necessary. If I don't take time to reflect, I lose the opportunity to step back from the rush of life for a broader look at how information applies to my life.

Where am I going? What have I done well or badly this past day, week, year? How does this new technology or news tidbit or thought effect me? What can I learn from what I've done or what others can teach me? How can I improve myself?

I have a small bound journal that I take out from time to time and write in, when the mood strikes. I usually take time to get away to a quiet place to reflect and then write my thoughts. After I've done this, I always feel much more focused. Often the very act of writing is what helps me process in a tangible way, what I may have been subconsciously thinking about.

Michael Ashby, in a recent post on his weblog (about paper) mentioned a separate personal journal he keeps in a bound book. I know other friends who do this as well and have always admired the idea but never thought I could maintain a daily journal. I think my daily weblog proves that I can indeed do something daily, even if it's a minor thought of the day, written before I nod off to sleep.

So, today I've decided to start a ritual of daily reflection for at least 15 minutes followed by writing my thoughts in a bound paper journal. I want to see how just a little reflection time and writing each day might impact my life and how I view the information I consume. Should be an interesting experiment, eh? :-)

If you have experiences with your own personal journal you can share, I'd love to hear them. If this post has encouraged you to start your own reflection journal, I'd be very pleased to hear about that too.

"The unreflected life is not worth living." -- Socrates


Obervations on Working Environments

Morning was in full swing. Cars and trucks were rushing in all directions, but I was semi-insulated from the traffic noise by Dido's "White Flag" as it played on the Tungsten E tucked inside my coat pocket. I was feeling good as I walked home, because I'd managed to do a good bit catch up on some things while at the local café.

You see, I meet my friend Randy at Caribou Coffee every Thursday at 6:30am. We like to meet there to catch up and have discussions while enjoying a cuppa coffee. It's a nice routine; something I look forward to each week.

But beyond this get together time, I'll often bring along my Tungsten E, AlphaSmart Dana or Mac Powerbook to read or get some work done after Randy leaves at 7:30. I found this time at the café to be very helpful, because for whatever reason, I tend to become very effective while I'm there. I've always found that intriguing.

Today, I had the Powerbook along, to catch up on my personal emails. Sometimes when I'm at my home office I just don't have the desire to reply to personal emails after a day of work on the computer. So, non-urgent messages tend to get stale in the inbox.

At some point the amount of emails growing moldy reaches critical mass, and I just have to deal with the replies. Usually I do my replying at home in the later evenings, but today I came to the realization that the café works even better for this task, since I can really focus and get through many email replies pretty quickly.

I think the atmosphere of the café is suited for working and thinking. Of course there are people sitting around me talking when I work, but their discussions are just one part of the "buzz" in a café. Their voices blend with other discussions, orders being taken, the background music, the grinder pummeling beans to dust and the espresso machine cranking out shots and frothed milk. That's what I mean by "buzz" (not to be confused with the buzz from caffeinated coffee!).

Being away from the "normal" is also helpful for any kind of work like email, because the usual walls, sounds, atmosphere and smells of the office or wherever are gone. I can especially sense this, because my home office has limited natural light, while Caribou's walls are 90% open windows. I feel as though I'm free to think with all that openness and light, which may fuel creativity and writing.

Now I'm not saying my home office is like a dungeon because it isn't. It's more that these once and a while café visits seems to spark my creative side: sketching, writing and designing. If I spent every day at the café it's likely that it would become the "normal" place and would lose its positive effect.

What's interesting to me is, I know the library or the bookstore both have different effects on my mindset than the café does. I can also say that there are definitely different senses of atmospheres in different places. For instance, a train and an automobile have very different atmospheres, just as the woods and a lakeshore do.

Do you have a favorite place to "be" when you read or think or are creative? I'd love to hear about your special place and why it helps you do whatever you do there.


Monday Tidbits

Seeing as I have no real theme for today's posting, I thought a bunch of tidbits might do quite nicely.

Milwaukee Christmas Parade
I was at the Milwaukee Christmas Parade on the weekend, and saw a somewhat humorous accident (nobody was hurt) along the parade route. This involved the Starbucks float, which was essentially a covered vehicle with waving Starbucks employees in green aprons on top, surrounding a huge inflated pseudo-cup of Starbucks coffee.

Well, the Starbucks float planners must not have driven the route beforehand, because as the giant cop-o-coffee came to the walkbridge over Wisconsin avenue at the old Federal building (where I was seated), it clipped the bottom of the walkbridge and began tipping sideways, until it broke a seam and started deflating. The coffee cup slowly drooped over as the float drove away... good thing it was the very end of the route. Needless to say, other inflated float drivers turned the other way on Wisconsin avenue to avoid this.

Figures I'd leave my digital camera at home the one time it would be useful! ;-)

Shaun McGill's PDA 24/7
I also read Shaun McGill's latest PDAThoughts column entitled How long can it last? (scroll down) this weekend, where Patrick Robbe of EuroClie worries that Shaun is facing some serious decisions about running PDA 24/7, with his new daughter Alice on the way. Patrick writes:

"...don't be mistaken though: with the arrival of your second child, your best PDA days are behind you, I fear (at least, that's what happened to me, my second son being just over one year old now), so it's more or less a gamble for me: either you manage to get your personal server up and running before your second child is born, or I expect PDA24/7 to dwindle and disappear within the next year or so."

I hate to say it, but I found myself agreeing with Patrick, at least about Shaun's time demands. I do believe Shaun will work hard to keep his site running. I don't know if Shaun will have the energy to maintain his current high level of activity on PDA 24/7 with a new daughter arriving.

However, Shaun has the advantage of many helpers and a format that can benefit from people working in many time zones to keep things running smoothly, like Sammy at Palm Addict does. Shaun has assured me that he's been planning for his second child's arrival, and has a good crew to keep things running. That's good to hear.

All I know is, when I still ran the Palm Tipsheet, which was a monthly thing, it would have been very difficult to do it alone. I opted to stop doing it for several reasons (one of which was the arrival of Nathan) and ended up selling it, but I do know that if I had tried to keep it going, I would have been seriously sleep deprived. I was sleepless as is was, without the worries of the Tipsheet hanging over me.

So, I wish Shaun the very best, as I enjoy his work. I hope that his planning and posting helpers can keep PDA 24/7 (or whatever he might choose to name it next), going very strongly for years to come. :-)

Nathan Walks!
Speaking of children, Nathan started seriously walking this weekend, which is exciting and scary all at the same time. He is very excited to walk, while I'm trying to be the eagle-eyed dad who stops him from boppin' his noggin' on various things. There's only so much child-proofing you can do though. So, the next few months are going to be very interesting...

Number Portability
Oh, BTW, if you live in the US, today (November 24th) is Number Portability Day, otherwise known as The Day of Mobile Carriers Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth. Carriers would have you believe this is going to kill their business -- well yeah, if you offer your customers terrible service and treat them badly. But isn't that the case normally? Number portability is a great step toward bringing more competitiveness to the market and breaking the carriers' utter control of mobile services and devices. It's about time that some power was returned to the actual users of the mobile phone systems.

And that's all he wrote...